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Pterodactyl vs. Pteranodon: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on January 20, 2024
Pterodactyls were small to medium-sized, toothed pterosaurs; Pteranodons were larger, toothless, and had longer wingspans.
Pterodactyl vs. Pteranodon

Key Differences

Pterodactyl, a term often used colloquially to refer to members of the Pterosauria group, typically had smaller body sizes and possessed teeth. Pteranodon, a specific genus of pterosaur, was notable for its larger size, with a wingspan reaching over 20 feet, and it lacked teeth, which distinguished it from many other pterosaurs.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 20, 2024
The Pterodactyls, particularly the Pterodactylus genus, were known for their long, curved wings and could be found in various sizes, from small to medium. In contrast, Pteranodons had remarkably long wingspans and a distinct crest on their heads, making them one of the most recognizable pterosaurs.
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Pterodactyls lived during the late Jurassic period and were widespread, with their fossils found in Europe and Africa. Pteranodons, on the other hand, thrived during the late Cretaceous period and were predominantly found in North America, indicating a different geographical distribution and timeline.
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In terms of diet, Pterodactyls, with their teeth, likely fed on fish, insects, and other small animals. Pteranodons, being toothless, are believed to have primarily been fish-eaters, catching their prey while flying over water bodies.
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Regarding locomotion, Pterodactyls, while adept flyers, were also capable of moving on all fours on land. Pteranodons, with their larger size and wing structure, were primarily adapted for flight, with less emphasis on land mobility.
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Comparison Chart

Size

Small to medium-sized
Larger, with over 20 feet wingspan
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Physical Features

Teeth, long curved wings
Toothless, long wings, distinct head crest
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Period

Late Jurassic
Late Cretaceous
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Geographical Spread

Found in Europe and Africa
Predominantly in North America
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Diet

Likely fed on fish, insects, small animals
Mainly fish-eaters
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Locomotion

Capable of flying and moving on all fours
Primarily adapted for flight
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Pterodactyl and Pteranodon Definitions

Pterodactyl

A genus of small to medium-sized, toothed pterosaurs from the late Jurassic period.
The Pterodactyl fossil exhibited at the museum showed its distinct teeth and wing structure.
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Pteranodon

A large, toothless pterosaur with a long wingspan, living in the late Cretaceous period.
The Pteranodon is often depicted in media soaring over ancient seas with its massive wings.
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Pterodactyl

Had a widespread presence in the late Jurassic era across Europe and Africa.
Pterodactyl fossils are significant in understanding the diverse wildlife of the Jurassic period.
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Pteranodon

Characterized by a distinct head crest and primarily fish-based diet.
The Pteranodon's crest could have been used for mating displays or aerodynamic purposes.
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Pterodactyl

A member of the broader Pterosauria group, often colloquially referred to as 'flying dinosaurs'.
Children are often fascinated by the Pterodactyl, imagining it soaring through ancient skies.
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Pteranodon

One of the most recognizable pterosaurs due to its size and unique features.
The Pteranodon's silhouette is iconic among prehistoric creatures.
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Pterodactyl

Known for its curved wings and varied diet including fish and insects.
Scientists believe the Pterodactyl was a versatile hunter, feeding on various small prey.
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Pteranodon

Excelling in flight, it was less equipped for land movement compared to smaller pterosaurs.
The Pteranodon's skeletal structure highlights its adaptation for long-distance flight.
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Pterodactyl

Exhibited the ability to fly and walk on all fours.
The Pterodactyl's unique skeletal structure allowed it to navigate both air and land.
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Pteranodon

Mainly found in what is now North America, indicating a specific geographical habitat.
Pteranodon fossils in Kansas provide insights into the prehistoric ecosystems of North America.
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Pterodactyl

Any of various pterosaurs of the group Pterodactyloidea of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, having a short tail or no tail, and including the pteranodons.
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Pteranodon

Any of several large pterosaurs of the genus Pteranodon of the Cretaceous Period, having a long crested head, a scooplike beak, no teeth, and a wingspan of over 8 meters (26 feet).
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Pterodactyl

(paleontology) A pterosaur in the genus Pterodactylus.
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Pteranodon

A member of Pteranodon, a genus of large pterosaurs, the males of which had a bony crest on the back of the head.
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Pterodactyl

(informal) Any pterosaur.
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Pteranodon

A genus of American Cretaceous pterodactyls destitute of teeth. Several species are known, some of which had an expanse of wings of twenty feet or more.
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Pterodactyl

An extinct flying reptile; one of the Pterosauria. See Illustration in Appendix.
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Pterodactyl

Extinct flying reptile
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How large were Pteranodons?

They had a wingspan of over 20 feet.
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Did Pterodactyls have teeth?

Yes, they were toothed pterosaurs.
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Where were Pterodactyl fossils found?

In Europe and Africa.
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Were Pteranodons found worldwide?

They were predominantly found in North America.
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What was the primary diet of Pteranodon?

Mainly fish.
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Did Pteranodons have a varied diet?

They primarily ate fish due to being toothless.
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What is a common misconception about Pterodactyls?

That they are 'flying dinosaurs'; they are actually pterosaurs.
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What era did Pterodactyls live in?

The late Jurassic period.
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What is a notable feature of Pteranodon?

Its distinct head crest.
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Could Pterodactyls walk on land?

Yes, they could walk on all fours.
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Were Pterodactyls as large as Pteranodons?

No, Pteranodons were generally larger.
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What adaptations did Pterodactyls have for flight?

Long, curved wings and a lightweight body.
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Were Pterodactyls good flyers?

Yes, they were adept at flying.
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How did Pteranodons impact their ecosystem?

As top predators, they played a significant role in marine ecosystems.
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Is the Pteranodon considered a dinosaur?

No, it's classified as a pterosaur.
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How did the diet of Pterodactyls vary?

They ate fish, insects, and possibly other small animals.
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Were Pteranodons solitary or social animals?

This is not definitively known, but some evidence suggests they might have been social.
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How did Pteranodons capture their prey?

Likely by diving or skimming over water.
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Are Pterodactyl and Pteranodon from the same family?

No, they belong to different genera within the Pterosauria group.
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What distinguishes Pteranodon fossils from other pterosaurs?

Their large size, toothless beak, and distinctive head crest.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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